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8:32 a.m. - 2012-12-20
I'm done with school.

I'm done with school and now I have tons of other stuff to deal with, laundry and my kids' messy rooms and ... stuff. All I want to do is sleep.

I put my kid on the bus and I'm not sure she's going to come home. I can't kick this school shooting thing. I have all these stories I've covered stuck in the head. There was the guy who left his wife and baby in an idling car in front of a crowded supermarket so he could run in and dump off his recycling, something that take 20 seconds because the bins are right inside the doors. In that 20 seconds a guy carjacked the wife and kid and took off; he repeatedly raped the woman for 24 hours before she was able to grab the baby and escape somewhere in New Jersey. A single mother's two daughters, 18 and 19, were home from college on break and went to the store to get some milk on a clear afternoon; they were broadsided by a speeding cop (who wasn't responding to an emergency) and both killed. A family sleeping in their house next to the connector between Atlantic City and Pleasantville; a drunk drive drove into the house and his car landed on top of the sleeping couple in their bedroom. Their kids were in the room right behind and watched as the drunk driver tried to reverse and drive off the bed. (He didn't succeed.)

A shares my sense of constant impending disaster, though not from reporting -- her mom was killed by he likely drunk-driving stepfather (he wasn't prosecuted), her dad killed his second wife driving drunk (and went to jail), another relative was hit by a truck and killed while crossing the street.

I know at least a dozen people my age and younger who have died untimely deaths -- people I grew up with, and still can't picture dead. A lot of car wrecks, two suicides, cancer, drowning, brain aneurism... When I was 20 or 21 I covered a car wreck that killed my brother's best friend and wrote the story on deadline thinking my brother was the second fatality. My brother and his four friends were supposed to go see a soccer teammate in the hospital and the three injured kids weren't my brother; as it turned out my brother had decided to drive alone at the last minute and the second dead kid was the little brother of one of my friends' little brother, who they'd randomly picked up hitchhiking.

I had been at the scene as my mom was trying to get through the barricades, and I was begging the fire chief, who I had known my whole life, to tell me (not as a reporter) if my brother was in the car. He wouldn't. That whole episode has never been anything but emotionless and surreal in my memory. I was glad when I stopped reporting for my hometown paper because the dead stopped being people I knew. But I don't know if I'll ever believe that people are going to be here tomorrow. It surprises me more when they are than when they're not.



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